Defensive coordinator Nick Holt leaving USC

USC’s coaching staff, already in a state of flux on offense, will change next season on defense as well.

New Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, formerly USC’s offensive coordinator, on Monday said Trojans defensive coordinator Nick Holt would join his staff.

Holt, 46, will become the Huskies’ defensive coordinator and will also have the title of assistant head coach.


“It’s official,” Sarkisian said by phone from Seattle, where a Monday afternoon news conference to announce Holt’s hiring was rescheduled for today. “We’re getting a great coach and a great recruiter.”

Neither Holt nor USC Coach Pete Carroll could be reached for comment.

Holt has been USC’s defensive coordinator for three seasons. He was a member of Carroll’s first staff, serving as linebackers coach for three seasons, then left to become head coach at Idaho in 2004.

After going 5-18 in two years at Idaho, Holt had accepted a job as an assistant with the St. Louis Rams in 2006 when Carroll coaxed him back to USC as defensive coordinator.

Terms of Holt’s deal with Washington were not announced, but one reason that post could be more attractive to him than the USC position is that he will have more control. Carroll, who served as his own defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2005, still has considerable influence over that unit. The Trojans finished the 2008 regular season ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense.

Holt is the sixth USC coach or administrative staff member hired by Sarkisian, joining Dennis Slutak, director of football operations; Jared Blank, director of player personnel; Ivan Lewis and Charr Gahagan, strength coaches; and Demetrice Martin, a former graduate assistant who will coach Huskies defensive backs.

Holt initially turned down overtures to join Washington’s staff after Sarkisian was hired as Tyrone Willingham’s successor in December. But when USC secondary coach Rocky Seto declined an offer to become the Huskies’ defensive coordinator, Sarkisian once again pursued Holt.

“It’s been ongoing,” Sarkisian said. “I didn’t want to do anything until after” the Rose Bowl.

Sarkisian also credited Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward for helping to lure Holt. “We were able to put together a really good deal to get [Holt] excited about the job. He saw a lot of opportunity,” Sarkisian said.

“Now that that side of the ball is solidified,” he added, “I can really focus on the offense.”

Seto, 32, is regarded as a top candidate to replace Holt as USC defensive coordinator. Seto has been on the staff since 1999 when he was a volunteer assistant for Paul Hackett. He has coached linebackers and defensive backs under Carroll.

“I feel like I’ve been prepared for this opportunity,” Seto said. “If it happens, wonderful. If it doesn’t, I support Coach Carroll’s decision 100%.”

Linebackers coach Ken Norton also could figure in the coordinator equation as Carroll reconfigures his staff.

Carroll promoted receivers coach John Morton to replace Sarkisian as offensive coordinator. Carl Smith is expected to rejoin the staff as quarterbacks coach, possibly by the end of this week.